Records of the Committee on the Mütter Museum and the Museum Council of Philadelphia
Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Committee on College Collections of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was established in 1935. According to the 1935 by-laws of the College of Physicians, the committee, which reported to Council, had "general supervision over and care for such objects in the ownership or custody of the College" and was responsible for their "preservation, exhibition, and use". In addition, the committee recommended an individual to serve as the Custodian of the College Collections. The committee, consisting of three appointed members, held its first meeting on 25 January 1935. The Committee on College Collections was created to care for objects belonging to the College proper, not the Mutter Museum, such as medals, badges, paintings, photographs, statues, busts, and the items displayed in the Abbe Cabinet. The committee was responsible for the preservation, repair, exhibition, loan, and cataloging of these objects. In addition, the committee prepared deeds of gift, handled insurance matters, and decided where objects would be placed in the College building. Another aspect of the committee's responsibilities was to examine all items presented to the College of Physicians and recommend to Council whether the items should be accepted or donated to a more suitable institution.
Over the years, the Committee on College Collections worked closely with the Committee on the Mutter Museum; by 1939, the same Fellows served on both committees. The committees shared letterhead and held their meetings on the same day, but officially remained separate, with each preparing its own minutes and reports. In 1990, the functions of both committees were assumed by the Committee on Program.
The Museum Council of Philadelphia is the oldest and one of the largest regional associations of museums in the United States. The council was formed in 1939 by a group of thirteen institutions meeting to discuss a cooperative plan to promote Philadelphia museums and tourism in conjunction with the New York World's Fair, which was held that year. It was to be composed of "those cultural and scientific institutions within the City of Philadelphia that have for the general public exhibits of permanent and cultural interest. It will serve its members as a medium through which their mutual interests may be unified and will further serve to bring to the attention of the world at large the invaluable resources that its members possess." The Philadelphia Council of Museums, as it was first known, appointed an executive committee with the responsibility of producing and distributing a pamphlet describing museums in the city.
The council was active in promoting local institutions and their collections through public relations and outreach, notably through museum education partnerships with schools, and through the early use of radio and television, as well as the publication of directories relating to member activities. It promoted the preservation and storage of museum collections during World War II, and was an early advocate of conservation, collection care training, and disaster preparedness for member and affiliated institutions. Over time, the council's mission became more inclusive and focused on the networking opportunities of museum professionals. Articles of Incorporation (1975) stated that the purpose of the council was to promote "communication between its member institutions; to act as a collective voice on matters affecting museums; to provide counseling service to museums and other educational institutions, and to individual persons contemplating museum careers; and to provide a forum for confraternity…" In this respect, the Council has recognized the accomplishments of individuals and organizations by the presentation of its annual Museum Service Award. The Council has also supported an ongoing discussion of issues facing museums in the areas of inheritance law, non-profit status, and the responsibility of museums to protect cultural heritage.
The Council, currently known as the Museum Council of Greater Philadelphia, has continued to promote the resources and collections of museums and related cultural institutions to educators through the publication of school-related directories such as "Key to Discovery," and its biennial seminar and guide, "Beyond the Blackboard." It has mounted a series of public awareness campaigns through city-wide promotional efforts such as "Warm-Up to Museums."
Gretchen Worden spent her career at the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and was an avid supporter of local, national, and international professional organizations. Ms. Worden, who grew up in nearby Media, Pa., and had a B.A. in physical anthropology from Temple University, joined the museum staff as assistant curator in 1975. From 1979 to 1988, she held the position of curator, until 1988 when she became director of the Mütter Museum. Ms. Worden was also a member of the Museum Council of Philadelphia, where she served as president from 1989 to 1991 and served on the Board of Directors since 1991.
Much of this collection deals with her association with both the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Museum Council of Philadelphia.
The Records of the Committee on the Mütter Museum and the Museum Council of Philadelphia consist of 4.8 linear feet of textual and graphic materials produced or related to both the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Museum Council of Philadelphia from 1932 to 2006. The collection is arranged into two series: Series 1: College of Physicians of Philadelphia and Series 2: Museum Council of Philadelphia.
Series 1: College of Physicians of Philadelphia spans the years from 1923 to 2006, although the majority of the material spans from the mid-20th century to the early 21st century. Series 1 is further divided into two subseries: Subseries 1.1: Administrative and Subseries 1.2: Committees.
Series 1, subseries 1.1: Administrative (1923-2006) contains correspondence and various other documents related to the College organization and operations. Principal correspondents include: George P. Müller, Lewis C. Scheffey, Robert H. Bradley, and Bernard Behrend. Operational plans, proposals, and renovations to the Mütter Museum span from 1975 to 2004. This subseries also contains documentation dealing with the American Association of Museums accreditation process. Included in this subseries are files relating to the museum trusteeship and Thomas Dent Mütter Will and Deed of Trust, which may be of interest to researchers.
Subseries 1.2: Committees (1937-2001) mostly consists of minutes, reports and correspondence related to the Committee on the Mütter Museum and College Collections, spanning from 1969 to 1990. This subseries contains minimum to no files solely on either the Committee on the Mütter Museum or the Committee on College Collections. Although they were technically separate committees, they worked closely together, sharing letterhead and holding meetings on the same day. Other committees represented in this subseries, such as the Committee on Deaccessioning and Mütter Museum Policy Subcommittee, contain little documentation. This subseries also consists of files dealing with the Mütter Trust and curators and committees of the Mütter Museum.
Series 2: Museum Council of Philadelphia spans from 1961 to 1996 and is divided into three subseries: Subseries 2.1: Administrative, Subseries 2.2: Committees, and Subseries 2.3: Projects and Affiliations.
Series 2, subseries 2.1: Administrative (1961-1996) contains meeting minutes, correspondence, executive files of President Worden, and various other documents related to Council organization and operations. Meeting minutes from 1978-1996 are essentially business meeting minutes. In 1985, minutes of the Executive Committee are interfiled with the business meeting minutes. During this time, the Executive Committee was variously known as the Executive Board and Board of Directors. Researchers should note that Executive Committee files are also found in subseries 2.2: Committees. Correspondence from Clair Cuddy, of the Smithsonian Institute, and Dorris Fanelli, President of the Museum Council, relate to "Beyond the Blackboard," which is documented in subseries 2.3: Projects and Affiliations. This subseries also contains files dealing with annual reports, by-laws, financial reports, planning, legal matters, samples of stationery and a floppy disk of an undated Museum Council calendar.
Subseries 2.2: Committees reflects the various standing and ad hoc committees supported by the Council existing from 1977 to 1991. For purposes of organization, this subseries is arranged alphabetically. Major standing committees within this subseries are the Curators and Registrars Committee, Education Committee, Membership Committee and Public Relations Committee. The files on these committees mostly consist of minutes, reports and correspondence. The Membership Committee files contain material related to membership applications, honorary fellows, and the Museum Service Award. There are several committees, such as the Safety and Security Committee, which have little documentation in this collection. The Executive Board was originally designated the Executive Committee; some of its files are located in the Administrative subseries.
Subseries 2.3: Projects and Affiliations (1978-1996) contains files related to projects undertaken by the Council or that relate to joint projects with other organizations. The Collection Care Training Program (1988-1991) was a major project started by the Council. Significant collaborations and affiliations included the Key to Discovery Project (1983), Beyond Blackboard (1986-1988), Warm-Up to Museums (1987-1988) and Direction Philadelphia (1989-1990). This subseries also includes photographs and ephemera from Warm-Up to Museums. Researchers should note that related materials to dedicated files for certain projects can usually be found in other files, such as correspondence, meeting minutes and reports in this series.
- Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
- Finding Aid Author
- Sabrina Bocanegra
- Finding Aid Date
- June 2018